Summer Internship at the IU Foundation

Article written by Molli Duckworth, a second year MAAA student at IU. She spent her summer interning with the IU Auditorium through the IU Foundation’s summer internship program and has worked as a GA at Bloomington Playwrights Project. If interested in asking Molli more about her Summer internship or about her blog post, she can be reached at 

Throughout my first year in the MAAA program, I became increasingly aware of how important skilled and engaging fundraising professionals are to any nonprofit, especially arts organizations. I had dabbled in fundraising positions and activities before, but honestly the field didn’t excite me as much as other areas of arts administration. After taking classes such as Cultural Districts and Local Arts Policy, Performing Arts Center Management, and Arts Organizations in the Public and Private Sector over the course of our first year in this program, I began to see just exactly what nonprofit arts organizations are up against. I also saw more acutely the ways in which rock star development professionals can have a hand in securing their organization’s position well into the future.

Because of all of this, I jumped at the chance to apply for the Development Internship at the Indiana University Foundation for this past summer. The IU Foundation accepts proposals from around 10 different schools or units around campus for each summer and then sends the interns they hire to work directly under a Development Officer in one of those areas. Luckily, one of the units for summer 2016 was the IU Auditorium, and I was matched with their Development Director.

In addition to working on a project in our individual units, we spent time on-site at the Foundation to learn about how every department there, as well as the development offices of the individual units and schools throughout campus, work together to raise an astounding amount of funds each year. In one of these first sessions at the Foundation, we quickly jumped into discussing IU’s Bicentennial Campaign—a joint effort between all 8 of IU’s campuses to raise $2.5 billion by IU’s 200th anniversary in January of 2020. It’s a huge undertaking, but IU is already 63% to the goal!

We also got a peek into nearly every department and group that works together to make this campaign, and nearly all of the fundraising, at the university possible—major gifts, annual giving, women’s philanthropy, stewardship, events, the Foundation board, general administration, etc. Coming from an arts background where there are typically zero to 3 people in an organization devoted to development, it was amazing to see one large organization whose primary responsibility was raising funds and advocating for this large university.

Over at the IU Auditorium, where I spent the majority of my time, my main task was a project researching groups at other arts and culture organizations that are similar to the Auditorium’s three membership groups—the Circle of Friends, the Auditorium Alumni Association, and the Young Professionals for the Performing Arts. Part of the fun of this project was to contact other development professionals at organizations across the country and talk about their challenges in bringing more donors into the fold, and what they would do for their donors if they had unlimited time, money and resources. This culminated with me making recommendations to the Auditorium’s Development Director for how to best go forward with these groups, as well as collaborating with the staff to design a new Circle of Friends donor brochure.

While I got to spend a large amount of time working on fundraising for an arts organization within the university, our time at the Foundation forced me to step outside the arts and culture sector and see the distribution of donor dollars at the university as a whole. It reinforced for me that on this campus, and in general, the arts has a long way to go in terms of fundraising. This got me thinking really hard about what development professionals in the arts can do to stand out from the pack and make the best case for giving to the arts.

And I didn’t even mention the extremely valuable week-long Principles and Techniques of Fundraising course at the IUPUI Lilly School of Philanthropy or “Board week” at the Foundation which culminated in the Partners in Philanthropy Dinner here at IU. The folks at the IU Foundation are amazing at what they do and it was extremely educational and really fun to get a look at their organization this summer.


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